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Mumps

Mumps (also called infectious or epidemic parotitis) is an acute inflammation of one or both parotid glands. The disease seldom occurs in infants under age 1 because of passive immunity from maternal antibodies. About 50% of cases occur in young adults, with the remainder occurring in young children or immunocompromised adults.

Peak incidence takes place during late winter and early spring. The prognosis for complete recovery is good, although some patients, especially postpubertal males, have serious complications. One attack of mumps (even with only unilateral infection) usually confers lifelong immunity.

Causes

The cause of mumps is the mumps virus, which spreads easily from person to person through infected saliva. If you are not immune, you can contract mumps by breathing in saliva droplets of an infected person who has just sneezed or coughed. You can also contract mumps from sharing utensils or cups with someone who has mumps. Mumps is about as contagious as the flu.

Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms and signs of mumps are:

  • Soreness or swelling of the parotid glands on one or both sides. Discomfort may range from vague tenderness to obvious pain when opening the mouth or swallowing
  • Fever, usually lasting about two to three days
  • Sore muscles
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Earache that is aggravated by chewing
  • In men and adolescent boys, swelling in one or both testes.
  • Aversion to light, lethargy, and a stiff neck
  • Upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting

Diagnostic tests

Glandular swelling confirms the diagnosis. Serologic testing to detect the mumps antibodies can verify the diagnosis if the patient's glands don't swell. If comparisons between a saliva, urine, or CSF specimen obtained during the acute phase of illness and another specimen obtained 3 weeks later show a fourfold increase in antibodies, the patient probably had mumps. Serum amylase levels also may be elevated.

Treatment

Appropriate treatment includes analgesics for pain, antipyretics for fever, and adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration from fever and anorexia. If the patient can't swallow, treatment may include I.V. fluid replacement.

Prevention

For prevention, the MMR vaccine should be given to children. There is no effective post-exposure treatment.

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